The Paul Laurence Dunbar High School marching band has been selected to march in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2014.
Wesley Whatley, creative director for Macy's, flew from New York City to Lexington to make the surprise announcement during a concert Thursday night.
The announcement drew a standing ovation from the crowd in the high school's gymnasium. Staff members passed out vials of confetti, and students threw it in the air to celebrate following the traditional Macy's parade kickoff countdown of "5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — Let's have a parade!"
The iconic New York City parade is known for its elaborate balloons and floats, and its celebrity guests. It is watched by an estimated 50 million people each year on television and an additional 3.5 million standing on New York City's streets.
Whatley said more than 175 bands applied to participate in the parade, and just 10 were selected.
"I make it my business to look across the country and identify the music programs that are the finest in the country," he told the crowd before revealing the big secret. "And I'm here tonight because I believe that Paul Laurence Dunbar is one of those programs."
Students said they were surprised. Even 10th grader Madison Hood, band director Jeff Hood's daughter, said she didn't know about it.
"I've known for about a month, " Jeff Hood said. "That was the hardest part, keeping it a secret."
The 112-member Dunbar band last participated in the parade in 2007.